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Consumer Mobility Propels Revenue Growth for Coca-Cola in Q3

By Parkev Tatevosian, CFA – Oct 29, 2021 at 1:34PM

Key Points

  • Coca-Cola has a higher market share in away-from-home channels.
  • Its beverages are sold at higher prices at restaurants and theme parks.
  • The stock is trading near decades-low levels when measured by its price-to-free-cash-flow ratio.

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Quarterly revenue surpassed 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic's onset.

International beverage giant Coca-Cola (KO 0.25%) reported third-quarter results on Wednesday. The results suggest the company is recovering from the big hit it took at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but also that it still has some work to do to fully get back on track.

Revenue growth from people leaving home

Almost 7 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered as of this writing. That's giving confidence to governments to ease business restrictions and for consumers to again visit restaurants, theme parks, and movie theaters. The trend is driving revenue growth for Coca-Cola.

People clinking glasses of soda.

Image source: Getty Images.

Coca-Cola reported a 16% boost in revenue year over year in its most recent quarter (ended Oct. 1). The company's quarterly revenue results are finally exceeding 2019 levels. Because of the pandemic, Coca-Cola's sales declined by 11.4% in fiscal 2020. The company generates a significant part of its revenue from away-from-home channels like restaurants, theme parks, and movie theaters. As folks visited those establishments less frequently at the pandemic's onset, it hurt Coca-Cola's sales.

The reverse is now playing out. As economies are reopening and more people are vaccinated, away-from-home sales are recovering. That has a bigger effect on boosting revenue because sales at these venues have higher margins than sales for in-home consumption from places like grocery stores and e-commerce sites.

Still, despite the recovery in away-from-home channels for Coca-Cola in Q3, sales from this segment are still below 2019 levels. As long as the threat of COVID-19 continues to diminish, the company should see a continued tailwind for its away-from-home sales.

That could partly be the reason CFO John Murphy is optimistic for the final quarter of the year: "Given our strong results and with one quarter remaining, we have good visibility and are raising guidance for the full year. We now expect to deliver organic revenue growth of 13% to 14%, which is at the high end of our previously provided range, and comparable EPS growth of 15% to 17% in 2021."

The stock is near decades lows using this metric

Investors seemed to like the results in the quarter too and Coca-Cola's stock price increased 2.2% following the announcement. The rise put the stock just barely into positive territory year to date.

The near term will continue to be challenging for Coca-Cola. A new wave of COVID-19 infections could reverse the momentum it's been seeing in consumer mobility. Further, the pandemic is creating supply chain disruptions worldwide, causing shortages of materials and rising prices for commodities. The latter will hit Coca-Cola's gross profit margin by mid-single-digit percentage points in fiscal 2022.

Coca-Cola had difficulty growing earnings in the decade, and that was even before the pandemic hit. Some investors are concerned the challenges stemming from the pandemic will make it more difficult for the beverage manufacturer to increase profits in the future.

The negative sentiment may be priced into the stock. Coca-Cola shares are trading at a price-to-free-cash-flow multiple of 21, near the lowest they have sold for in decades. It might be a good time for investors to consider adding Coca-Cola stock to their portfolios. 

Parkev Tatevosian owns shares of Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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